August 3, 2020
I am writing to share that our District’s Pandemic Reopening Plan has been posted to our District website. Please be aware that this is a document that was required to be submitted to the New York State Education Department and New York State Department of Health but remains a work in progress and is subject to change as we await an official announcement from the governor. Many factors could alter the scope of this framework including Executive Orders from the governor, directives and recommendations from the New York State Department of Health, or the Otsego County Department of Health.
Even though I knew better, I truly looked forward to our high school graduation thinking that the uncertainty and craziness that was the 2019-2020 school year would be behind us. However, we know that there remains tremendous uncertainty ahead of us. Working through the “What Ifs” toward a reopening plan has been incredibly difficult. There are simply NO good options. We all want our students back in our brick and mortar buildings. Unfortunately, when school district leaders are being asked to make these decisions based on, among other criteria, how many hospital beds are available in our communities, the decision to reopen a school district takes on a different meaning. Having thousands of college students move into our community during a time where we are simply in no better position than we were last March relative to this illness is quite concerning. Creating a phasing in approach allows us to monitor what impact the influx of these young adults may have on the collective health of our community seems most appropriate. As such, we will remain in the remote
learning environment to start the 2020-2021 school year. We will reevaluate
this model as we approach the Interim Progress Report period of October 9th.
Opening schools in anything other than a fully in-person schedule creates many hardships. This framework details a remote learning opening to the 2020-2021 school year that we recognize will be difficult for many. However, as mentioned in the framework, it is our main intention to safeguard the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff members, and by extension the collective health of our community. This has been and continues to be a difficult time for all of us. During the initial school closure, many of our district parents and guardians were able to work from home, while others left their jobs in order to educate children at home. Educators were quickly placed into an environment where they needed to learn new learning management systems and teach from home while also assisting their own children who were learning in this manner as well. It has also been tremendously difficult for our students who have not had the face-to-face time with their teachers or the social interaction with their peers that we know are so important.
The health and safety of students and staff are our top priority. While this plan is in compliance with the requirements set by the New York State Education Department which serve as baseline stipulations, there are occasions wherein we feel that adherence to a more stringent approach as recommended by the New York State Department of Health and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), safeguards our school community stakeholders better. Please know that the guidelines and protocols that have been established are not flexible. As a school district, we have kept safety first and foremost and we will continue to do so.
The Reopening Framework posted on our District’s website, contains information about our phased in approach to the opening of school for the 2020-2021 school year as well as many safety procedures, protocols, and expectations. It also contains information about the three formats under which we may be attending school at some point throughout this school year. Please note that there is also a “Quick Guide” that I hope will answer many questions that you might have. My hope is that by this school year’s end, we find ourselves fully opened with the medications and vaccines in place to protect us all.
Thank you for your cooperation and continued understanding during this time. I am appreciative to all of our faculty, staff, community partners, and our parents and guardians who have provided input that informed this framework. I recognize that for many, reopening remotely is not desirable and I respect that position.
We have begun providing professional development and meetings designed to culminate with the information that our students/families, and faculty and staff will need in order to create a standards-based and meaningful educational experience. There will be other correspondence from this school district or your child’s respective school(s) with specific information.
For now, I continue to wish all of our OCSD families good health. As always, please do not hesitate to call or email me with any questions (office: 607-433-8200 X-1301 or [email protected]).